The Max Theatres story began back in 1917 when a Mr. Dixon purchased an old opera house named Port's Theatre. In 1919, a new building was constructed and the establishment was renamed, Royal Theatre. It featured a lobby, foyer, women's bathroom, its own power supply, the first air conditioning in the area, and an auditorium containing 525 seats. When new management took over in 1929 sound equipment was installed. The first sound system was called, talkie vitaphone.
In 1941 Richard Carl Max bought the theatre from Otto Lehmen. R.C. Max, had come from running a general store with his brother in Kaylor S.D. In 1951 he designed a new marquee and named the place Max Theatre. Here is a letter from , RC Max's Daughter.
Mr. Max incorporated new ideas to the movie business. He introduced one of the first wide screens called cinemascope in the area, and sold soda bottles to go with the popcorn, The soda bottles had to be drank in the lobby in fear of spilling or breaking the glass in the auditorium.
In 1962, Larry Pedley and Aileen Sleeper started working at the theatre with RC Max. Larry was hired as a projectionist and Aileen as a concession worker. Larry and Aileen later married. In 1973 Larry and Aileen Pedley leased the theatre from R.C. Max. When Max died in 1981, Larry and Aileen purchased the theatre from his heirs.
Due to the farm crisis in the late 80s the theatre was in danger of closing. Ticket prices were $3.50 at the time. In 1987 the price was lowered to $.99 a ticket! People thought that it was neat that they paid a dollar and still got change. There was a penny jar that people could put their penny in and when it was full there was a contest to guess how much money was in the jar. If you won you got a years pass to the theatre. The money was then given to a local charity. A few years later when sales tax was raised in Iowa the admission was raised to $1.00. Not long after that the admission was raised to $2.00 due to rising inflation and the cost of living. Also, the movie companies started having a per capita amount, and if that amount wasn't met the movie couldn't be played by the exhibitor.
In 1995, the Max Theatre went under some major renovations and expansion. A second auditorium was added. New handicapped accessible restrooms were built and the sound equipment was upgraded. The concession stand was enlarged and new seats and carpet were installed.
In 2011 the film companies announced they would begin phasing out film distribution. Distribution would now be digital. This created a huge hardship for many independent theatres around the country. The cost of the new projection equipment put the future of Max Theatres in doubt. Because this transition affected so many theatres some financing options were made available. So in August of 2012 the Max Theatres proceeded with the transition to digital.
So, as time passes some things have to change. The Max Theatres is ready to transition to a new owner. In 2015 Larry and Aileen put the theatre up for sale. They are hoping to find someone with the same passion for movies they have had. In the mean time they will continue to run the theatre for as long as they are able.
2017 marks the theatre's 100th anniversary! Let's hope it sees 100 more.